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European tour pro says freak childhood rat poison scare led to PED suspension

March 7, 2019

European tour pro Christiaan Bezuidenhout’s life story is hard to believe, but once you read about it, there’s a good chance you’ll be pulling for the South African pro on the golf course. It all starts with a rat poison scare in his childhood.

In a blog post written for the European tour this week, the 24-year-old pro revealed that his golf career nearly ended before it even started.

When he was just 2 years old, Bezuidenhout was playing with friends when he accidentally drank a cup of rat poison disguised in a Coke bottle.

“It was a moment which would change my life forever,” Bezuidenhout writes. “As a result of that moment of naivety I almost died. The hospital had to pump my whole stomach to get rid of all the poison, but the poison affected the whole nervous system in my body.”

While his life was saved, Bezuidenhout was left with long-term issues from the near-death experience, including a stutter. Embarrassment from the stutter led to a “a severe case of anxiety.”

With the help of a psychologist, he made progress with the anxiety, but therapy couldn’t fix his stutter.

That’s where Bezuidenhout’s story takes a strange twist.

At the age of 14, Bezuidenhout says he started taking beta blockers prescribed by his doctor to help with the anxiety around his stutter and public speaking. And it seems to have worked. As the young pro writes, “I used the medication for seven years during my amateur days which helped me become more confident and enjoy my life again.”

But at the 2014 British Amateur at Royal Portrush, Bezuidenhout was drug tested after his first round. Two months later and back home in South Africa, his dad called to tell him he’d been suspended for using beta blockers, despite having “wrote the medication down on the form prior to the drugs test, making no secret of the fact [he] was using this medication.”

“It felt like my life was over,” Bezuidenhout says of the time. What followed was the darkest period of his life, a period during which he was accused of using the beta blockers as a performance-enhancer in addition to a lot of other “nasty things.”

But, in the end, Bezuidenhout overcame all the obstacles thrown in his path. After a hearing, his ban was reduced from two years to nine months, and, most importantly to him, he was “was cleared of using any form of drug to better my performance.”

After a stellar Rookie of the Year campaign on South Africa’s Sunshine tour, he finally earned his European tour card in 2017. You can now find him competing weekly on the Euro tour, including at this week’s Qatar Masters, where he opened with an even-par 72.

You can read Bezuidenhout’s full blog post here.